Winter Encampments… where armies are reforged for battle

Three years ago I started a series of posts discussing the 1864 Winter Encampment of the Army of the Potomac, focused through the diary entries of Colonel Charles Wainwright.  In that series, I often called for readers to broaden considerations.

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We tend to study military history from battle to battle.  The “in between” is often summarized in short paragraphs.  Almost as if the armies were machines to be turned on when battle nears, then turned off once out of musket range.  Such fails to present the reality of armies in being.  These are bodies of men which must be fed, equipped, trained, and led.  Armies don’t just stand around waiting for a switch to be thrown.  Armies are a constant buzz of activity, even if not directly confronting an enemy.  In fact, even more abuzz when not within range of an enemy!

Under conventions used during the 19th century, armies were supposed to go into “winter quarters” during the months of January, February, and March…. at least in the Northern Hemisphere… and at least prior to the mechanization of logistics… and at least so long as the weather precluded active campaigning.

When studying the Civil War, specifically, we must put those last two caveats into the mix. During the Revolutionary War, we might point to Valley Forge and Morristown as examples of winter encampments.  We also must acknowledge there was much campaigning in the Carolinas through those same periods, as the fairer weather allowed such (and armies were reluctant to exert themselves in those areas in the days before whole-scale mosquito control). Secondly, a driving factor for 18th century armies to “winter” had to do with sustenance. With the arrival of the railroad, one important constraint on an army’s winter activities was at least alleviated… though depending on the situation might still be tenuous.

But even if the armies were not starving and shivering, as their forebears at Valley Forge, the winter encampments of the Civil War were indeed important periods of activity for our study.  When “sitting still” armies focus on replenishing, refitting, re-equipping, training, and reorganizing.  And those all require substantial resource expenditures… namely time!

During the Civil War, replenishment activities, as alluded to above, benefited from products of the industrial revolution.  While railroads provided a far more efficient way to provide bulk resupply in the field, industrialization as a whole provided an economy of scale to the overall benefit of the armies. Even in the supposedly non-industrial Confederacy, factories well to the rear worked to provide substantial quantities of ammunition or other consumables used by the armies in the field.

One might figure refitting and re-equipping to be one and the same.  But words have meanings here.  Refitting is to repair or directly replace what is on hand.  Say… like.. replacing worn out 6-pdr field guns with new 6-pdr field guns.  But re-equipping is to replace with something, hopefully, better.  As in a new, shiny set of 12-pdr Napoleons. And those activities must be considered from weapons all the way down to tent flaps.  Replacement or upgrade of equipment is, analytically speaking, reflects an improvement of combat efficiency.  Refit brings the army back to full capacity.  Re-equipping reflects an incremental upgrade in combat power.

Nothing in an army is as precious and perishable as the skills of soldiering.  Veteran individuals might know the drill, but the net evaluation of veteran status is not bestowed upon the unit by individual assessment.  Rather the whole of the unit must perform at the required level.  Such is why armies standing still tend to spend great deals of resources engaged in training, even for veteran formations.  Soldiers must operate in a predictable manner, when ordered. As such, training is the preventative to the disorder, confusion, and chaos of battle. The net effect of prolonged periods of training is an incremental improvement of combat efficiency, which might also reflect onto combat power (thinking things like increased rate of fire, better use of weapons, etc.).

Reorganization is often related in light of some personal or political components.  Certainly, one way to remove an incompetent subordinate, or one who has fallen into political disfavor, is to dissolve a command. But from the practice of military science, reorganization applies to situations where command structures are inefficient or unnecessarily complicated.  I contend, at least in the context of the Civil War, such was more so the case. Sometimes just a designation change carried more weight than simply bringing forward a replacement in command.  Re-designation from “wings” to numbered corps at Murfreesboro in the winter of 1863, for example.  Such gave subordinate commanders more latitude, but more importantly gave soldiers a unique entity to identify with.  Arguably the reverse occurred in the winter of 1864 with the Army of the Potomac, as storied formations were dissolved with consolidation of corps.  Both reorganizations improved command and control of the force.  (I know some will argue that point in regard to the Army of the Potomac… but that is what comments are for.)

The result of these five categories of activities during those encampments had a cumulative effect.  Armies were reforged in those camps.  Sometimes better.  Sometimes for the worse.  And those reforged armies were almost immediately put to the test when spring campaigns launched. I’m often amazed someone has not put together a full, proper study of the winter encampment experience of the Civil War.  There’s plenty of material.  Consider:

  • The first winter of the war, with Confederates across Northern Virginia and Federals around Washington.  These witnessed the birth of major armies, which would play important roles in the war.
  • Also in the first winter of the war, the complex of camps around Cairo, Illinois.  Likewise, the birthplace of armies.  We might extend that study to consider other western theater camps such as around Columbus, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio. In some cases, arrangements were made that worked well into 1865 (i.e. Grant-Sherman)… and others that wouldn’t work past a few months.
  • The Federal winter camps in Stafford during 1863.  Burning question – was this a successful winter?  Did it setup failure at Chancellorsville?  Or success at Gettysburg?  Or both?
  • Likewise, cross the Rappahannock that winter to the Confederate camps outside Fredericksburg.  The thread I’d pull on there, and have before, is logistics, reflecting on the resupply, refitting, and re-equipping activities. One might argue a general failure in those three activities brought on the need for a Gettysburg campaign.
  • Oh, but let us not forget the winter encampment which completely consumed Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Certainly a “reforging” of an army to consider, with good and bad to evaluate.
  • We might also consider Milliken’s Bend for the same winter, for Grant’s force operating on Vicksburg.  Particularly in regard to reorganization of an army, morphing a cumbersome Thirteenth Corps, with additional forces tacked on, into a proper field army.  But we might also study that encampment in regard to modern warfare lessening the need for a winter pause.
  • The Winter Encampment… as I prefaced this post with, that of the Army of the Potomac in 1864.  A wealth of material to study in this regard.  Major activities conducted across all the activity categories.  Historians such as Clark “Bud” Hall, John Hennessy, and others have blazed a trail here, offering a template that can be applied to other winter encampments.  Hopefully, with the establishment of a Culpeper Battlefields State Park, we can see a time when students can venture into the field for study of these encampments.
  • The counterpoint winter encampment… that of the Confederates on the south side of the Rapidan during the winter of 1864.  Again, a wealth of material to consider.  And.. a wealth of extant field locations, though mostly still on private property.
  • Sherman’s armies winter around the Chattanooga area.  This, I would complain, has slipped under the nose of most.  The Atlanta Campaign as a whole, perhaps, gets “just enough” attention from historians, in my opinion.  And that winter’s experience is often summarized with the Grant-Sherman correspondence.  As if the soldiers were “on ice” the whole time. Given the decisive nature of the victory at Atlanta, would it not be good for us to connect some dots?
  • Sherman’s very brief winter pause at Savannah of barely three weeks, from Christmas 1864 into January 1865.  It was a winter encampment of sorts.  Certainly all those activities we mention above occurred before Sherman launched his march through South Carolina in mid-January. However, consider what this said about the notion of a winter pause… both at Savannah and at other points such as Petersburg, that winter.  Was a winter encampment an obsolete practice in modern war?

Well.. I started out to make a short list.  But my fingers kept going.  There are several others worth noting (for instance, the winter of 1863 around Charleston, which I’ve discussed in much detail across several posts).  But you get the idea.  We need to look into these winter activities with more than passing reference.  These were places and times when armies were reforged.  What was made right, or not as the case may be, would serve those armies well into campaigns that followed.

Fortification Friday: Stoccades as a supplemental interior arrangement

As we continue the walk through Mahan’s description of interior arrangements for fortifications, we turn next to the use of stockades.  As a defensive structure, stockades dated back to ancient times.  Stockades were quite popular on frontiers (not just the American frontier) where resources were short and adversaries were not expected to use heavy siege weapons.  As such, we tend to see more stockading in American fortifications… not just those Civil War structures we focus on here, but also for those outposts across the west.

Mahan mentioned stockades and stockading at several intervals in his instruction.  It is important to differentiate between stockading as a form of construction, in particular used for obstacles, and stockades as a defensive structure.  For reasons I cannot determine, Mahan used the archaic spelling “stoccade” to describe the latter.  And I will perpetuate that here, if for nothing else to preserve what may have been a subtle point, lost on us today.  Same material, just used in a different manner.  And toward the use of a stoccade, Mahan returned to a “… we’ll detail that later…” section of the earlier discussions.  Specifically, what to do with the back-side of those open works or on the gorge of bastions within enclosed works:

Enclosures for gorges and outlets.  A stoccade is the best enclosure for the gorge of a work.  The outline, or plan of the gorge, should be a small bastion front, for the purpose of obtaining a flank defense.

Mahan refers to Figure 39 as an example of such a plan:

PlateVIFig39

A basic lunette, but with an enclosure wall across the gorge.  I’ve taken the liberty of outlining that addition in red.  Notice how, as Mahan suggested, this is a portion of a bastion in terms of plan arrangement.  We have the curtain in the middle, a pair of flanks, and a pair of faces.  This offers a cross fire across the rear of the fortification.  Not something that would stop a determined defender.  But at least something to cause pause.

And keep in mind, this enclosure wall was not just earth.  Rather the intent was something that might be placed without heavy labor or use of precious resources.  A wood stoccade wall:

The trunks for the stoccade should be ten or twelve inches in diameter, and eleven feet in length.  It will be best to square them on two sides, so that they may have about four inches of surface in contact.  The top of the stoccade should be at least eight feet above the ground.  To arrange it for defense, a banquette is thrown up against it on the interior; the height of the banquette one foot nine inches. A strip, about two feet in length, should be cut from the top of two adjacent trunks, wit ha saw, so that when they are placed side by side there shall be an opening at top, between them, eight inches wide on the interior, and two and a half inches on the exterior; this opening, through which the muzzle of the musket is run out, in firing, is termed a loop-hole. The distance between the loop-holes should be three feet.  In this arrangement the bottom of the loop-holes will be six feet above the ground, on the exterior, to prevent the enemy from closing on them to stop them up, or to use them in the attack.

Figure 40 illustrates this arrangement:

PlateVIFig40

Notice this is across line n-m on Figure 39.  So basically across a face of the bastion.  Consider the interior arrangements described.  First, look to “n”, on the left.  We see a small banquette built as described, providing a footing for our garrison.

Consider the matching of requirement to form in the design of the stoccade wall.  The holes provided for these trunks ensured the tops extended eight feet above the ground, and thus six feet, three inches from the tread of that banquette.  Certainly sufficient to provide protection from direct fire for the man standing on that banquette.  But then we have the loop-holes, extending from the top down to six feet above the ground, which corresponds to five feet, three inches above the tread of that banquette.  So… for the guy on the inside, the loop-hole is at the right height for easy handling of a musket, through that nice little embrasure, if I may.  But… for the guy on the outside, the loop-hole is just above eye level for a man of average height and thus a little more cumbersome to reach and utilize.  Applied math!

Now what about the exterior face?

About four feet in front of the stoccade, a ditch is made twelve feet wide and three feet deep.  The earth from the ditch is thrown up against the stoccade, in a slope, to the level of the bottom of the loop-hole, to prevent the enemy from attempting to cut down the stoccade.

And we see that arrangement laid out in profile.  Again, the form matches to requirements with almost elegant simplicity.

Something easily replicated for the stage of a western movie in the 20th century.

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 60-1.)

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – Missing Batteries and Other Notes

After posting the summaries for Wisconsin’s batteries last week, I updated all the links for the first quarter, 1863 summaries.  Before charging in to the next quarter, I wanted to circle back and identify any additional blanks – specifically batteries or other formations that should have been listed in the summaries but were not.  For this, allow me to use Frederick Dyer’s Compendium as the base reference.  Although there were formations that escaped mention in that work, particularly those serving only under state authority, Dyer’s is a good list to work from.

With that baseline established, some batteries missed by the clerks at the Ordnance Department for the first quarter of 1863:

  • 1st Arkansas (Union) Artillery Battery – Captain Denton D. Stark received authorization to raise this battery in January 1863.  The battery was not completely formed until later in the spring.  The battery mustered at Fayetteville, Arkansas, but would move to Springfield, Missouri (perhaps as early as March of the year).
  • 1st Colorado Battery:  Once again escaping note from the clerks.  Commanded by Captain William D. McLain and often cited as McLain’s Independent Battery.  The battery was posted to Fort Lyon, Colorado.
  • Armstrong’s (Kansas) Battery: Potentially an interesting story here, but at present I only can offer scant particulars.  This was a battery formed within the 1st Kansas Colored Troops.  I suspect, from looking at the regimental roster, the name derived from Captain Andrew A. Armstrong.  Formed in the fall of 1862, the regiment saw active service in Kansas and Missouri through the winter of 1863 and into spring.  The first reference I have to the battery is from a July 1863 action report.
  • 13th Massachusetts Light Artillery: Battery left Massachusetts in January 1863 and was assigned to the Department of the Gulf.  Captain Charles H. J. Hamlen commanded. The battery performed various duties around New Orleans until around June, when assigned to the defenses of the city.
  • 14th Massachusetts Light Artillery:  Not mustered until 1864, but I include mention here so you don’t think I skipped a number.
  • 15th Massachusetts Light Artillery:  Captain Timothy Pearson in charge.  Moved to New Orleans in March and was assigned to the defenses of New Orleans.
  • Battery L (11th Battery), 1st Michigan Light Artillery: This battery didn’t officially muster until April 1863.  But the unit was “on the books” at the state level.
  • Battery M (12th Battery), 1st Michigan Light Artillery: Likewise, Battery M would not muster into Federal service until June 1863.
  • Walling’s Battery, Mississippi Marine Brigade: I made mention of this battery as one often cited under Missouri, as it was missing from the first quarter listings.  And for good reason, the battery really owes more to Pennsylvania than Missouri! We will see this battery appear under a separate heading in the next quarter.
  • 1st Marine Brigade Artillery (New York):  Colonel William A. Howard commanded this formation, which served in North Carolina.  The full “regiment” included ten companies.  My first inclination is to rate the brigade as “naval” artillery, as they were intended to be assigned to boats and ships.  However the batteries of this brigade were used in the field, and eventually assigned to garrison posts.  In January 1863, the regiment was reassigned to the Department of the South.  But before that move was completed, the formation disbanded (date given for that administrative action was March 31, 1863).
  • Battery A, 1st Tennessee (Union) Artillery Battalion: Also listed at times as the 1st Tennessee Battery, Middle Tennessee Battery, or other derivations. Captain  Ephraim P. Abbott commanded this battery, listed in the garrison at Nashville.  The battery would go on to serve with the Army of the Cumberland in the field.

And I’m not going to say this “completes” the list or fills in all the holes from the summaries.  For instance, one noticeable change reflected between the fourth quarter of 1862 and first of 1863 was the reduction of non-artillery troops reporting cannons and artillery equipment on hand.  One example was the 3rd California Infantry, which had reported a pair of 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr mountain howitzers at the end of the previous year.  We saw a few cases, in the winter of 1863, where infantry or cavalry units reported having their own artillery.  But those were becoming rare.

Still, if we are looking to account for every cannon and every cannoneer – admittedly a long shot at best – one must keep in mind those non-artillerymen serving guns.  And also account for those field guns impressed for use in the garrisons and fortifications.  And… well you get the point.

My closing note for the first quarter would be a circle back to the point made at the beginning of this thread.  During the winter of 1863, the Federal armies underwent substantial reorganizations.  These actions “task organized” the force towards strategic objectives.  In the east, this change was mostly seen with the movement of the Ninth Corps.  But in the Western Theater, two large and cumbersome corps were broken up to form a couple of armies – one aimed at Atlanta (with the near-term objective being Chattanooga) and another directed towards Vicksburg.  With that reorganization, batteries moved about on the organization charts.  All the while, new cannons and fresh stocks of ammunition flowed in (in addition to replacement horses, fresh recruits, and new equipment).  The batteries were but loops in several coiled springs about to discharge in the spring of 1863.

Fortification Friday: Wheeler’s splinter-proof traverses

Last week, we noted the subtle, but expanded, changes applied post-war to instructions offered to cadets studying the construction of traverses in field fortifications. In that installment we focused on the heavy variety which would protect against shot and shell arriving on the works from slant or enfilading fires.  A lesser type of traverse, which to be fair was mentioned in Mahan’s pre-war manual also, was a splinter-proof traverse to protect against fragments and, to a lesser extent, shrapnel.

Junius B. Wheeler, writing in the 1880s, retained the label, but offered more details of these lighter traverses:

Splinter-proof traverses. – A traverse intended to be used only as a protection against splinters and fragments of shells scattered around by their explosion, is known as a splinter-proof traverse.

Traverses of this kind are not made so thick, nor so high, as the traverses just described. Their usual height is the same as that of the parapet.  Their thickness at the base is from seven to eight feet.  Their length varies, being in some cases only ten feet, and in others as much as sixteen feet.

Succinct description.  Notice that Wheeler’s definition allowed the engineer to adjust the size relative to the parapet… or shall we say need.

Wheeler continued with a discussion about placement of these light traverses:

As a rule, a traverse of this kind is not joined to the parapet, but is separated from it by a narrow passage, which can be used by the men to pass from one side of the traverse to the other.

Thus, these were often to be detached from the trace of the work.

As for construction, Wheeler provided far more details than Mahan:

A rectangular space is marked upon the ground for the base of the traverse.  A row of gabions is then placed in juxtaposition along the line representing the base of the traverse, and given a slope inwards, either by setting the gabions on a slightly inclined excavation in the ground, or by raising the outer edges by means of fascines laid along the ground.

Gabions are then filled with earth, and also the interior space enclosed by them.

When the earth has risen above the top of the gabions, two rows of fascines are laid upon the top of the gabions to form a base for a second row of gabions. This second row is then filled with earth, and the process of filling with earth goes on, until the earth rises high enough. The top is rounded off, or made ridge-shaped, and the traverse is completed.

Wheeler offered this illustration for a splinter-proof traverse:

WheelerFig42

Not far off that offered by Mahan in the pre-war days.

Closing the discussion of splinter-proof traverses, Wheeler offered some alternative employments and additional notes:

The same method may be used for the construction of traverses required for defilade, when there is a pressing emergency for them.

Splinter-proof traverses are placed between the guns along the line of parapet which is exposed only to a direct fire from the enemy, and are only intended to confine the effects of bursting projectiles to a limited space.

They are usually constructed only when there is a necessity for them, and then hastily.  Gabions, sand bags, fascines, or any sort of materials used for revetments, may be employed in their construction.

I get the impression that Wheeler would have approved of modern variations on this theme….

I know.. more a wall than a traverse.  But the rapid construction techniques apply equally to placement of traverses inside the wall.  Another innovation of late involves the use of what’s called “concrete cloth” to further improve performance.  Though of the latter I am somewhat skeptical.  Concrete tends to produce nasty little fragments, which can be just as deadly as the shell fragments.  Regardless, point being that the practice of fortification continues to evolve but remains grounded in the days of Wheeler, Mahan, and, of course, Vauban.

(Citations from Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, pages 130-32.)

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – Wisconsin Batteries

We come to the last section of the first quarter, 1863 summaries.  Those lines are for the batteries from the state of Wisconsin:

0148_1_Snip_WI

We should see twelve batteries in the summary (a thirteenth would not be formed until December 1863).  And we see twelve lines.  Though, those are somewhat incomplete.  So let’s walk through to fill in the administrative blanks:

  • 1st Battery:  Reporting at New Orleans with six 20-pdr Parrotts.  The location was valid for August 1864, when the return was received in Washington.  As for the battery’s location in the winter of 1863, they were around Milliken’s Bend with the rest of Ninth Division, Thirteenth Corps.  When Captain Jacob T. Foster became the division artillery chief, Lieutenant Charles B. Kimball assumed command of the battery.
  • 2nd Battery:  No location given, but with four 12-pdr field howitzers and two 10-pdr Parrotts.   Captain Charles Beger commanded this battery, supporting Seventh Corps.  During the winter months, the battery moved from Camp Hamilton to Suffolk, Virginia.
  • 3rd Battery: No return.  The Badger Battery, under Lieutenant Cortland Livingston, became part of Third Division, Twenty-first Corps during the winter reorganization of the Army of the Cumberland.  The battery was stationed at Murfreesboro.
  • 4th Battery: At Suffolk, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  As with the 2nd Battery, the 4th Battery moved to Suffolk during the winter.  Both batteries were part of an artillery battalion assigned to the Seventh Corps.  Captain  John F. Vallee commanded this battery.
  • 5th Battery: No return.  The battery was assigned to First Division, Twentieth Corps, and thus wintered at Murfreesboro.  Captain George Q. Gardner assumed command of a battery recovering from battle at Stones River. A consolidated Army of the Cumberland report indicated the battery had two 12-pdr Napoleons, two 12-pdr mountain howitzers, and two 10-pdr Parrotts in June 1863.
  • 6th Battery: At Cartersville, Georgia with two 6-pdr field guns, two 12-pdr field howitzers, and two 3.80-inch James Rifles. Another case of a location derived from a later reporting date, with Cartersville being valid for October 1864.  In December 1862, the “Buena Vista Battery” spent most of the winter at Memphis, part of Seventh Division, Seventeenth Corps.  The battery later moved down the Mississippi with its parent organization to play an active part in the Vicksburg Campaign. Captain Henry Dillon commanded.
  • 7th Battery: At Jackson, Tennessee with two 6-pdr field guns and one 12-pdr field howitzer.  Lieutenant Galen E. Green remained in command of this battery, assigned to Third Division, Sixteenth Corps.
  • 8th Battery: At Murfreesboro with four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Assigned to First Division, Twentieth Corps as part of the winter reorganizations. Captain Henry E. Stiles (with promotion) remained in command.
  • 9th Battery: Fort Lyon, Colorado with four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers. Captain Cyrus H. Johnson commanded this battery posted in the District of Colorado.
  • 10th Battery: At Nashville, Tennessee with six 6-pdr field guns. Captain Yates V. Beebe’s battery was assigned to the Second Division, Reserve Corps, Army of the Cumberland.
  • 11th Battery: No return.  This battery became Battery L, 1st Illinois Light Artillery in February 1862, and was never replaced in the Wisconsin lineup.
  • 12th Battery: No location offered, but with four 10-pdr Parrotts.  Captain William Zickerick commanded the 12th, assigned to Seventh Division, Seventeenth Corps. During the winter, the battery moved (with parent organization) from Memphis to Milliken’s Bend.

Administrative details out of the way, we turn to the ammunition.  First up is the smoothbore types:

0150_1_Snip_WI

A lot of numbers with a curve or two:

  • 2nd Battery: 104 shell and 118 case for 12-pdr Napoleon; 32 canister for 12-pdr field howitzer.  With the battery reporting howitzers on hand, something was amiss here – be that the reporting, the clerks transcribing, or the ammunition issued. I’ll lean towards transcription error.
  • 6th Battery: 131 shot, 238 case, and 146 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 81 shell, 68 case, and 144 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 7th Battery:  60 shot, 80 case, and 45 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 15 case for 12-pdr field howitzers; 15 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.  Yet another line with a probable error.
  • 8th Battery: 32 shot, 96 shell, 64 case, and 64 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • 9th Battery: 400 shot, 320 case, and 80 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 150 shell and 190 case for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 10th Battery: 585 shot, 480 case, and 120 canister for 6-pdr field guns.

Moving down to the rifled ammunition, the tallies become more predictable.  Two batteries reported 3-inch rifles on hand, and those also reported Hotchkiss projectiles:

0150_2_Snip_WI

Those two:

  • 4th Battery: 109 canister, 632 percussion shell, 200 fuse shell, and 130 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 8th Battery: 151 canister, 486 fuse shell, and 94 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

A lot of blank columns on the next page.  So let us focus on parts.  First entry on the left is for Dyer’s projectiles:

0151_1A_Snip_WI

  • 4th Battery:  66 shrapnel for 3-inch rifles.

Moving over, we have Parrott rifles and so Parrott projectiles:

0151_1B_Snip_WI

  • 1st Battery: 600 shell, 143 case, and 122 canister for 20-pdr Parrotts.
  • 2nd Battery: 111 shell, 4 case, and 96 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • 12th Battery: 502 shell, 149 case, and 119 canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

Notice one column there to the right, for Schenkl projectiles.  We want to consider that along with the next page:

0151_2_Snip_WI

Again, these are Schenkl patent projectiles for the respective rifles:

  • 1st Battery: 274 shell for 20-pdr Parrotts.
  • 4th Battery: 170 shell for 3-inch rifles
  • 12th Battery: 28 shot for 10-pdr Parrotts (from the preceding page).

That brings us to the small arms:

0151_3_Snip_WI

By battery:

  • 1st Battery: Thirteen Army revolvers, seventy-one cavalry sabers, and four horse artillery sabers.
  • 2nd Battery: Twenty Army revolvers and 133 horse artillery sabers.
  • 4th Battery: Seventeenth Army revolvers and 121 horse artillery sabers.
  • 6th Battery: Thirty-five cavalry sabers.
  • 8th Battery: Fifty Navy revolvers and four cavalry sabers.
  • 9th Battery: 121 Navy revolvers and nineteen cavalry sabers.
  • 10th Battery: Eighteen horse artillery sabers.
  • 12th Battery: Eight cavalry sabers.

That concludes the Wisconsin batteries, and overall the summaries for the first quarter of 1863.  Before moving on to the next quarter’s summaries, I may… not sure if there is enough for a post… but may work up a listing of batteries missed by the clerks compiling the summaries for that quarter.

Fortification Friday: Wheeler’s expanded instructions for traverses

Last week, we saw that prior to the Civil War, Mahan felt one paragraph of instruction was sufficient for cadets to understand how traverses might be used between gun platforms of the batteries.  However, in 1882, Junius Wheeler, writing a textbook for cadets nearly two decades distant from the Civil War, felt the subject required much lengthier treatment.  Mahan used the “fancy” word Gabionade and mentioned two types – shot proof and splinter proof.  Wheeler dispensed with the label, simply calling these traverses, while holding there were still two basic forms:

Traverses. – The traverses constructed along a parapet are of two kinds, viz., the traverses built to afford shelter against slant and enfilading fires, and those built as a protection against fragments of bursting shells.

Wheeler’s definition discarded (as it was somewhat outdated by 1880) the notion of shot proofing.  The main nemesis was the shell. Note also that Wheeler adds that traverses should protect against slat fires. So imagine an arc of about 30° off perpendicular that must be addressed.

Wheeler provided considerably more information for the cadets in regard to construction of these traverses:

Traverses may be built at the same time that the work is constructed, or they may not be built until there is an immediate necessity for them.

In the former case, their construction is in all things similar to that of the parapet, viz., tracing profiling and execution…

Thus the cadets were referred back to all that applied geometry involved with building the parapet and planning relief. Such is fine for those who plan for every eventuality.  But who does that?  Procrastination is always an option!

In the latter case, they are generally built in great haste, and profiles are not used.  The construction is of the simplest kind, having for its object to interpose a mass of earth upon a line of fire, in the shortest time possible.  This is done by piling sand-bags, filled with earth upon the spot to be occupied by the traverse, and then raising there a mass thick enough and high enough to server the end required.  Gabions filled with earth are frequently used for the same purpose.

Swell!  If you didn’t have the presence of mind to sort this all out before hand, and waited for the enemy to point out the flaws of your fortification, you should start by filling some sandbags.  Lots of sandbags would be nice.

Wheeler continued on to relate the desired form of the traverse:

The top of the traverse is usually made ridge-shaped, so as to carry away the rain water which falls upon it.  The sides of the traverse are sloped, the inclination of the slopes being the same, or different, according to the degree of exposure of the traverse to the enemy’s fire.

WheelerFig40

The traverse shown in Fig. 40 is an example of a traverse built to shelter the men on the banquette from a slant or enfilading fire, coming in the direction shown by the arrow.  Its top is made ridge-shaped.  The side toward the enemy has the natural slope of the earth; the opposite side is made steeper, and should be revetted.

Note also the traverse can be higher than the interior crest.  Wheeler gave the engineer latitude to adjust according to the need – both for height and width.

The thickness of the traverse depends upon its exposure to the enemy’s fire. If a fire can be brought directly upon it, it should have the same thickness as that given to the parapet.

Its height and length depend upon the amount of banquette and terreplein which are to be defiladed by it.

The next structural question is how the traverse should link into the parapet, so as to avoid a mess or flaws.  And Wheeler had an answer:

The manner in which this traverse is joined to the parapet is shown in Fig. 41, which presents its plan.

WheelerFig41

The slope on the side toward the enemy is shown, in both these figures, to be uniform.  It is not always the case. The portion exposed to the enemy’s fire is given the natural slope of the earth; but below this plane of fire, the slope may be revetted, and made steeper.

Wheeler’s last remark about the form of these traverses allows for a modified profile:

Instead of being ridge-shaped, the traverses are, in many cases, made with a cross section similar to that of the parapet.

While an illustration would be nice here, I think we can imagine the suggested layout.  Instead of a central crest on the traverse, the highest point would be on the side furthest from the enfilading fires.  The top of the traverse would then slope down to the other top crest.  Such would serve to both drain the top and deflect enemy fires.

So.. Wheeler spent the better part of three pages just describing the layout and construction of one type of traverse – something evolved from Mahan’s shot-proof traverse.  Wheeler granted more latitude for the dimensions and put more emphasis on integrating the traverse into the overall fortification plan.  Most important, Wheeler’s traverse were not just something to protect the guns in battery, but also to protect the soldiers manning the works.

Beyond this, Wheeler also gave splinter-proof traverses expanded coverage.  We’ll look at that next week.

(Citations from Junius B. Wheeler, The Elements of Field Fortifications, New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1882, pages 128-30.)

Hennessy asks, “What’s up with Civil War Roundtables?”

Last Saturday, my friend John Hennessy offered his observations from the Civil War Roundtable speaking circuit, lamenting a fall-off of such venues.  Specifically, comparing to the 1990s, John noted fewer events.  And at those events, the audiences were somewhat smaller than in the past.  I think John has some sound “field data” for consideration.  And he offers questions that should also be considered:

While some CWRT’s continue to thrive, clearly, the Civil War Round Table as we have known it–once the foundation for interest in and advocacy for Civil War history–is stumbling, suffering from lack of interest.  Is it because interest in the Civil War is flagging across the board?  ….  Or is the Civil War Round Table format just not the medium people use to engage their interest in the war?  Or, as some have suggested to me, has the move to broaden interpretation of the Civil War–to address more than the traditional military story–turned off the traditionalists, the very people who are often most engaged with CWRTs?

I would agree that Roundtables are diminished in number and attendance.  However with that, I must put the asterisk out there – we don’t have empirical data to sort through and a lot of this is “what I’ve seen and heard” sort of evidence.  Not that it is bad evidence.  But we must admit this is not exactly Nielson Ratings we are sorting through.

There were many comments on John’s post and also on his corresponding Facebook status for the post. Lots of observations offered as folks addressed John’s questions.   Many approach the matter in generational terms, which is a good tacking approach.  But careful for the reefs there.  I don’t think we can attribute a roundtable decline simply because of Common Core or whatever the latest boogie man of the educational system happens to be. As I’ve often observed in regard to school lunches, we might change what is on the plate but consumption is still based on the student’s appetite.

Some responses turned directly to the last question in John’s list. Perhaps the decline due to an intellectual shift away from the gilded centennial, where the emphasis was on “battle history”, shifting to the complexities appreciated as we approached, and then passed, the sesquicentennial.  There’s a lot of between-the-lines implied with some of those answering the question, to be sure.

The problem I find with that approach is one must demonstrate that in the “golden years”, those roundtables eschewed certain topics.  We circle back to the “no empirical data” disclaimer there, even while one can find ample evidence a wide range of topics were presented back in those old days.  On the other hand, these organizations tend to be focused on the “Civil War”, you see.  And the Civil War, like most wars one is apt to study, includes a lot of battles, campaigns, and… well …. soldier and sailor stuff.  Criticism of a roundtable for discussing battles and leaders would be akin to complaining about getting wet while swimming.

From my perspective, as an officer in a roundtable and someone who has studied the Civil War for pretty much a lifetime, I don’t think the decline is something we must attribute to a specific cause.  Rather to causes.  I say causes because not all roundtables behave the same.  And not all factors play the same within that diverse set.

First off, we need to recognize what we perceive as the “golden age of roundtables” was not necessarily directly outgrowth to the original roundtables.  The earliest organizations I know of assuming the label of “roundtable” were formed in the 1950s.  And I think that decade was significant as we consider these things.  Approaching 100 years after the war, the first generations without direct attachments to the war came of age, and the last veterans passed away.  I would offer there is a cycle of the “memory” of such things.  And one manifestation of that cycle is how some once revered topics slide become simply gilded ideas (of course, then later, tarnished gilded ideas to be reshaped).

And in regard to that reshaping, I think John’s recollections hit upon an important thread. Many readers will recall those breathtaking evenings in the fall of 1990 as Ken Burns reintroduced America to the Civil War. (And do keep in mind I say “many” here and not “most” or “all”… hold on to that.)  While Ken Burns can’t take all the credit for what followed, his work certainly enabled a lot of that… for better or worse (um… like that movie with the beards).  The Civil War, the mini-series, touched a lot of people and made them rethink, and dare I say reconsider, the Civil War. Suddenly it was cool to be a Civil War buff. We can point to a lot of written works (to include John’s Return to Bull Run) that thrived in the light of the renewed interest.  Another manifestation was, as we are discussing here, a re-emergence of roundtables.

But I say “many” readers were familiar with the Ken Burns fad.  We must consider in perspective that documentary series first aired more than a quarter-century ago, at the end of the LAST century.  Attempts to ride on those coat tails, if not completely recapture the enthusiasm, have met with lesser degrees of success.  One might say that is because the public grew tired of the subject.  One might also say it is a fools errand to improve upon a great masterpiece.

I will say that, while I am very active in a roundtable now, I was not active during those “golden years” of the 1990s.  I attended a few events.  Even spoke at several roundtables (who were clearly desperately looking for speakers while the John Hennessys of the circuit were fully booked).  And that brings me to my second perspective point… being in my twenties, my time was prioritized to things that twenty-year-olds do.  The regular roundtable thing was for people with a regular schedule and time to pursue such enthusiasms… like my father and others in in their 40s and 50s.   Given that perspective, I’m not alarmed about the aging of the audience.

But what if the “kids” never find the Civil War?  Certainly a possibility.  But circle back to my premise about the “cycle of the memory” here. Maybe what we are transitioning through, with the observed demise of the Civil War roundtables, is the next progression.  If so, should this not be lamented but encouraged as we evolve on this subject?

We are in the middle of the 100th anniversary of World War I.  And we are soon approaching the centennial of World War II. Neither have, thus far, inspired a vast number of groups dedicated to the discussion those wars. A few, yes.  But maybe we are a few years short of that cycle kicking in.  Or, perhaps, the cycle will manifest through a different sort of medium, given more evolved platforms for communication.

Consider… very few, if any, of you readers would have seen my first Civil War related web page, which went live in 1993.  Maybe more than a few will recall the “Mason Dixon Line” chat forum on America-On-Line.  But here you are, reading about the Civil War across the world-wide-web at the close of 2016.  It’s actually kind of fun coming up with new ways to share the captivating story of the Civil War as the communication tools evolve.

Maybe that’s just my rambling way of saying that I’m not concerned about where Civil War roundtables are headed.  Nobody ever made a clean living off the roundtable circuit anyway.  Not like we are watching the demise of proper cabinet-making or other practical art form.  Civil War roundtables were always about the sharing and consumption of information about the Civil War…. sometimes “the Civil War, period” and perhaps more and more now days “the Civil War period.”  Matters little what venue or forum is used, that information will continue to entertain, and captivate, a select audience.